Moses's life started off on a less-than-usual note. A Hebrew baby, Moses was born during a time when Egypt's Pharaoh was killing Hebrew boys in hopes of protecting his throne from the people he was keeping in slavery. In desperate response, Moses's mother hid him after birth and sent him floating down a river. Pharaoh's daughter discovered him and raised him as an Egyptian ruler.
This position was certainly one society would deem extraordinary. But Moses later learned of his true identity, a child of the oppressed; and eventually when he witnessed an Egyptian beating a Hebrew, he killed the Egyptian and fled to avoid punishment. Moses found himself in exile, wandering in search of his next step.
He ended up at a well in Midian when he witnessed some shepherds hassling a group of women—and not just any women, but the daughters of the priest of Midian. Moses stepped in to stand up for the women and was invited to dinner out of gratitude from their father, Jethro. Moses accepted Jethro's invitation and eventually married one of his daughters.
Moses begins filling the expected roles of young man—husband, father, son-in-law, farmer. Living with and working for his father-in-law, Moses's life is good. But it is not all that God has planned for him.
Scripture tells of Moses working outside, tending the sheep his father-in-law owns. In this everyday moment, God chooses to overwhelm Moses with his presence. A bush is burning, which isn't all that unusual; I am sure that, being in the middle of the desert, Moses has seen bushes burning before. There may even have been other bushes burning at the same time as this one. But this one drew his attention. Why on this particular day did this one draw him in? What was different about this particular bush burning?
In the middle of Moses's routine, something sticks out and captures his attention. Days and times happen like this, and we cannot explain why we were drawn in or justify the time it takes to investigate. But we gaze anyway, and sometimes it is in this gaze that we see something odd or new and we walk toward it.
Investigating requires some time and energy. Once he decides to investigate, Moses has to climb up to this bush to check out the scene. He leaves his duties; he abandons his routine. The bush is on fire but is not consumed. How is that possible? Is this really a fire? Something unnatural is happening, and it draws Moses in even more. Maybe he is concerned for keeping the sheep safe. Maybe he's curious; something on fire should burn up. That only makes good sense. What in the world is going on up there?
As Moses gets close, God calls his name from the bush. This is the part of the story that gives me chills. What started out as an ordinary day is now transformed into a life-changing experience. This is the call—the moment when you realize God has chosen you for some work. The moment is surreal, unlike nothing you have experienced before. It can bring tears, fear, relief or dismay. Some people experience one or all of these emotions at once. It can pass quickly or go on for days at a time. One thing for sure, you realize—one way or another, whether it's dramatic or in the quietness of your heart—that it's you and God in this moment, and there's no way around it.
"Do not come any closer," God said. "Take off your sandals, for the place where you are standing is holy ground." Then he said, "I am the God of your father, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac and the God of Jacob." At this, Moses hid his face, because he was afraid to look at God.